I was reading my friend/colleague/mentor Kevin Dugan's blog today that discusses how off-base PR pitches can actually offend the recipients.

In this particular situation, a PR firm that represented a chain of funeral homes sent a pitch to the entire PR department at a health organization dedicated to saving lives. OOPS.

The comments from the blog all chastised the PR firm for blasting the news to their media database (Cision, Vocus, whatever). But what really gets me is that I doubt the health organization was listed in that database. Meaning, the PR firm had to manually enter the health organization's information in.

Of course, the morale of this story is not to blast anything to any member of the media. Sure, sometimes it's the quickest way to get your news out there, and a shotgun approach does end up killing the bad guy.

But, does it help your cause any? Does it foster the coveted journalist relationship? No. Or, as Kevin politely puts it, FAIL.

I'm recommending that my clients take the Zero Press Release approach. Instead of taking the time to draft a few paragraphs of news, complete with a quote designed to make your spokesperson appear to be the brilliant person that he is, why not come up with a series of pitches customized to each outlet?

I've done this successfully for years now, taking the time to research the outlet and the reporter. Crafting a strategic distribution plan to maximize the publicity.

Case in point: when I signed on with The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, I proposed a risky idea for sharing the results of their 110+ question Community Health Status Survey: Skip the press conference.

In the past, they held a press conference, had talking heads share 2-3 key points, and got 1 day of coverage. In general, the Health Foundation was pleased.

The communications department was not. One day of coverage was not enough ROI for their time and effort, and there were so many more topics that they wanted to share with the community.

So I talked their staff into letting us skip the press conference and do it differently. The talking heads balked—they enjoyed their time in the spotlight—but together with the communications team, we got them to give us the chance for that year. If it bombed, we said we’d go back to press conferences.

It didn’t bomb.

Our multi-tier, strategic communications plan got us six front page stories, multiple inside stories, and 5 stories on TV. And this was all in the first 3 weeks of releasing the data.

Beyond that, it fostered those afore-mentioned journalist relationships. The media continues to reference our data still today. All because we made more of it accessible to them in a strategic way.

The Health Foundation now uses this Zero Press Release Approach for other surveys, grant announcements, reports, etc.

The results speak for themselves: they have gone from an average of 5 mentions in the media per month to 8.

PASS.

3 comments

  1. Robin Ferrier on March 23, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    Megan: I 100% agree with you and Kevin. I actually had this exact conversation today with one of my internal "clients" who wanted to do a press release. I told her we would be better served if we made some individual calls / pitches to reporters. I told her press releases only work if you're Apple releasing a new product.

     
  2. Megan Licursi on March 23, 2009 at 2:16 PM

    Thanks, Robin. I think press releases still have some merit as web fodder. I still look for them on a site when I'm researching a company.

     
  3. Bambi Weavil on January 10, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    I'm catching up with your blog - which I'm loving by the way, thanks for putting it out Megan. I think many clients believe a blanket approach works, as I was telling a client recently that you have to build relationships and give things time - connections and connecting are priceless.

    Cheers,
    Bambi